I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting No. 36 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Thursday, February 3, 2022, the committee is meeting to study anticipated labour shortages in the Canadian transportation sector.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House Order of November 25, 2021. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.
Appearing before us today from the Air Transport Association of Canada, we have John McKenna, president and chief executive officer. From the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace, we have Robert Donald, executive director. From the National Airlines Council of Canada, we have Jeff Morrison, president and chief executive officer. From Nav Canada, we have Ben Girard, vice-president and chief of operations, and Jonathan Bagg, director, stakeholder and industry relations. From Pascan Aviation, we have Julian Roberts, president and chief executive officer, and Yani Gagnon, executive vice-president and co-owner. From Unifor, we have Kaylie Tiessen, national representative, research department.
We will now begin opening remarks with the Air Transport Association of Canada.
The floor is yours for five minutes.
The Air Transport Association of Canada has represented this country's commercial air transport industry since 1934. Our 175 members are engaged in all levels of commercial aviation and flight training, in every region of Canada. Our membership ranges from the very large domestic transborder and international carriers to regional carriers, along with flight training organizations and the Canadian air transport support industry.
The labour shortage in the commercial aviation sector is at a critical stage. Although the industry has been dealing as best it can with personnel shortages for many years through enhanced recruitment, training and retention strategies, and by importing experienced aviation personnel through immigration, the ever-growing shortage has been greatly exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the restart phase of operations.
The current state of affairs, if left without appropriate and quick Government of Canada action, will not only prevent the air transportation system from recovering but will be sure to deteriorate at a fast pace. This will have a devastating impact on the overall Canadian economic outlook, as all industries in our export-focused country rely upon available and efficient transportation of people and goods.
Northern and remote regions which rely on aviation as an essential service will be particularly vulnerable to unstable aviation transportation due to lack of resources.
Commercial pilots, cabin crew, air traffic controllers and aircraft maintenance and related personnel are all at critical levels. That is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Shortages in maintenance personnel are not just related to licensed aircraft maintenance engineers and design engineering staff, but also to the so-called unskilled trades, such as baggage handlers, cargo loaders, fuellers and de-icing crews.
Our industry is subjected to delays never before encountered in processing service requests at many federal government departments. What used to require up to 90 days now requires easily two to three times that long, leaving millions of dollars of equipment idle. Our industry is also being harshly impacted through poor levels of service by the lack of experienced engineers and inspectors within our regulator, Transport Canada's civil aviation directorate.
In order to see the air transportation system successfully recover following the pandemic and in the new labour realities, we need serious assistance from the Government of Canada, and we need it now, not sometime in the distant future.
This assistance can be provided in various forms. To be successful, innovative solutions based on regulatory streamlining and efficient alternative methods utilizing the latest technology for training are key. Canada must quickly catch up to other major regulatory systems such as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA, the UK Civil Aviation Authority, the CAA, and Europe's European Union Aviation Safety Agency, the EASA, in these matters.
One benefit of the pandemic has been the allowances by TCCA, for which we are very grateful, to use exemptions of alternative equivalent processes for training and licensing. ATAC urgently encourages TCCA to embed these and other proven alternatives, which are widely accepted by other major regulators, into the Canadian aviation regulations. This would enable Canada to properly support our industry in a time of dire need, and would do so efficiently for both the regulator and the industry. This would lead to a truly safe and efficient air transportation system, which Canada is so reliant upon and could be proud of.
Finally, Canada has been asking the Canadian government to co-operate in the establishment of a federally guaranteed loan program to support the training of the next generation of commercial pilots. Access to funding has been identified as one of the major barriers to entry for youth who are considering aviation as a career. Near full employment of professional pilots would result in a near zero exposure for the government within a guaranteed loan program so desperately needed to help train the next generation of pilots, especially in these times of high interest rates.
ATAC and its members stand ready to continue to co-operate with TCCA on the development and implementation of these required improvements, as quickly as possible.
I will gladly answer your questions once my colleagues have made their statements.
The Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace, CCAA, is a not-for-profit national partnership organization working with industry, labour, educators and government. CCAA is the only national organization dedicated exclusively to the labour market and the workforce in the aviation and aerospace industry.
Two points I'd like to talk to you about this afternoon are the critical labour shortage, as referred to by John McKenna just a minute ago, and the need to improve the system for access to foreign workers.
On the critical skills shortage, some of you will be familiar with the 2018 CCAA labour market information study. The study documented the critical skills gap in the sector. It is the most widely cited report on the subject. At that time, the study projected 55,000 new workers would be needed by 2025. CCAA has recently completed a new study, which will be published shortly. The new projection is for 58,000 workers by 2028. Of that, air transport requires approximately 31,800, which is 58% of the current workforce. Support activities for air transport require 13,200, which is 50% of the current workforce. Aerospace manufacturing requires 13,100, which is 25% of the current workforce. Of the 31,000 needed, 7,574 are pilots and 5,203 are aircraft mechanics.
Air transport will see high replacement demand and insufficient supply of new entrants. Of replacement demand, retirees make up 38% of the total hiring requirements. The balance is growth. There are projected to be 5,000 and change new entrants to the industry, which will make up less than 20% of the 31,000 needed, so 26,800 workers will need to be found from other industries or other jurisdictions. ICAO, Boeing and IATA all document that the shortages are worldwide, so recruiting from other jurisdictions will continue to be challenging, as it will be from other sectors.
The other point I want to talk to you about is streamlining the process for hiring foreign aviation maintenance engineers, AMEs. All Canadian companies prefer to hire within Canada for obvious reasons; however, as mentioned, Canada cannot produce enough workers, so companies are often forced to hire foreign workers. The process is time-consuming and costly. Adding two NOC codes to the list of critical labour shortages would be an important step towards making the process less costly and faster for a critical part of the industry. Those NOC codes are 7315 for aircraft mechanics and inspectors and NOC code 7244 for avionics and electronic technicians. All companies need a mixture of experienced workers and apprentices. Hiring 20 experienced foreign workers allows a company to hire 20 additional apprentices.
The other important related point is on recognition of foreign trained AMEs by Transport Canada. According to a recent report by CAMAQ out of Quebec, Transport Canada refuses 99% of requests from AMEs licensed in other jurisdictions like EASA or FAA. While their experience is recognized, elements of their academic education are considered deficient, because foreign regulators have different requirements for academic training. You have a licensed AME who's worked for a major airline, say in Germany, for 20 years, authorized by Transport Canada to work on Canadian planes in that jurisdiction. However, when they come to Canada, they are not recognized by Transport Canada to be an AME here because 20 years ago when they studied in Frankfurt, they didn't have exactly the same curriculum as that required by Transport Canada for colleges in Canada. Moving to a competency-based system instead of this methodical bureaucratic approach would be important.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll be happy to answer questions after the others have spoken.
Good afternoon. Thank you to the committee for the opportunity to appear before you today.
My name is Jeff Morrison. I'm the president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, or NACC. NACC represents Canada's largest passenger air carriers, including Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet. The mandate of our association is to promote safe, sustainable and competitive air travel by advocating for the development of policies, regulations and legislation to foster a world-class transportation system.
This study that the committee is doing on anticipated labour shortages couldn't come at a more opportune moment. Canada's airlines and their workers have felt the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic acutely. This sector was among the first to be hit and the last to recover. A large number of workers left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, either voluntarily being furloughed or offered early retirement.
If there's one thing I would stress that you take away from my remarks today, it is that there is no question that Canada's airlines are powered by the skills and talent of the people who work in this sector. Our success depends on them. Despite the many challenges that airlines and airlines staff have had to face during the COVID-19 pandemic period, I am pleased to state that our member airlines have been successful in returning their staffing capacity to 2019 levels. But we need to think about the future. The aviation ecosystem is reliant on the availability of a large, well-trained, competent workforce, and it must include professionals in adequate numbers to cater to the diverse roles found across the aviation sector and ecosystem. As legislators, you know that labour shortages aren't just buzzwords you read about on social media or hear about in the news. They impact the opportunity for sustainability and growth.
As you just heard from Robert, my colleague from the Canadian Council for Aviation and Aerospace, their labour market information study forecasts a need to hire more than 58,000 workers by 2028 to meet industry attrition and growth. Just as a bit of perspective, that total is roughly 43% of the current aviation workforce.
The air transport sector, in collaboration with aviation stakeholders and the Government of Canada, must succeed for Canadians and the aviation industry as we look to the future.
The sector relies on the Government of Canada to process the credentials of airline workers and other aviation personnel. This includes medical certificates, security clearances, restricted area identity cards and other identifying information.
As travel demand has increased, so have the demands for accreditation, and we must ensure that Transport Canada maintains adequate resources. Eliminating the backlog and ensuring that accreditation keeps pace with travellers' needs are immediate steps the Government of Canada can take.
For newcomers to Canada who want to work in aviation, we often see barriers to expediting the recognition of foreign credentials, as my colleague Robert also mentioned, and this is another area that we are bringing to the attention of the government.
We also believe the Government of Canada can do more to promote airlines as a positive career choice, similar to the effort it has made to encourage students or new Canadians to pursue careers in the skilled trades. In fact, by coincidence, earlier today the U.K.'s Department for Transport unveiled a new program called Generation Aviation, which aims to boost recruitment into the U.K. aviation sector. The Canadian government could look at this new program as a model.
Lastly, there is a need to use technology to further digitize services and requirements that will help enhance the travel experience, whether that be in airport operations, for instance, or customs screening. As another example, biometrics could play a role in addressing labour shortages.
It's critical that the Canadian airline industry remain globally competitive now and for decades to come, and that travellers have confidence that their journey is predictable, timely and enjoyable, with clear service standards across the air travel ecosystem. This means ensuring that the airline sector continues to attract and retain skilled workers now and into the future.
Mr. Chair, I too look forward to the discussion.
Thank you again.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Nav Canada is the not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates the world's first privatized air navigation system, ensuring the safest, most efficient movement of aircraft from the Pacific to the Arctic to the mid-Atlantic, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Having enough people to deliver safe and efficient air navigation services is a top priority for the company. This includes recruiting, training and staffing across a large number of roles such as air traffic controllers, flight service specialists, technologists, aeronautical information specialists, pilots, engineers and a range of supporting corporate employees.
Nav Canada employs a total of 4,400 employees, each with an important role to play.
Throughout the pandemic, Nav Canada has maintained the highest level of safety and a high level of service reliability and is still doing so today. Our direct contribution to system delays and bottlenecks represents a very small percentage of delays experienced within the aviation ecosystem.
Nonetheless, we take any Nav Canada related delays extremely seriously. We have been able to mitigate these to a large extent through the commitment and efforts of all of our employees and the strong collaborative relationships that we enjoy with our unions, customers and industry partners.
Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in unplanned absences across the business, including those related to COVID, unpaid leave due to the vaccine mandate, unexpected retirements as people make lifestyle decisions and additional leave entitlements applicable to federally regulated employers.
In the few instances when a staffing shortage may have impacted service delivery, Nav Canada did everything possible to minimize our impact on the industry. These steps included working with our staff to backfill the absences with overtime, optimizing staff scheduling and extending staff hours.
To support our operation, we have issued contracts to more than 50 retired employees, redeployed staff from other units, hired controllers from foreign jurisdictions and taken a number of other actions to ensure we have people in the right places.
Like other stakeholders in this industry, Nav Canada has faced and continues to face challenges made worse by the pandemic as well as the current employment market. As others have told you, there are significant challenges in recruiting people in the aviation industry.
Nav Canada's staffing plan is aligned with the future projected traffic over several years. Staffing plans take into account anticipated attrition and are mindful of our capacity to successfully train new employees. Supported by increased collaboration and information sharing with major airlines, we are monitoring traffic forecasts and the impact on staffing on an ongoing basis.
We are planning for the future, both in the short term and in the long term. Our frontline air traffic services training programs are currently running at full capacity. More than 250 individuals are currently in various phases of training, which can take between 24 to 36 months to complete. An additional 500 trainees will enter training programs for operational roles over the next two years. We are also adding 250 employees in non-operational roles this year.
The training for operational positions is delivered by training professionals and unionized operational employees. On this basis, the unions contribute to success rates for certification in air traffic service. Modernizing training programs are a key strategic priority for Nav Canada. We are improving training efficiency to support increased employees in operational positions over the long term.
In addition to a focus on staffing, Nav Canada is moving forward with strategic investments to introduce technology that increases safety, enables increased capacity and reduces the environmental impact of aviation.
Labour shortages are a complex issue, and there is no one simple solution to this issue. We are committed to working with our employees, unions, customers, stakeholders and the government to continue to provide a world-leading service while investing to meet future needs of aircraft operators and the flying public.
We have been and will continue to work collaboratively to address staffing issues and to continue to make Nav Canada an attractive place to build a career.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is Julian Roberts. I'm with Pascan Aviation.
We're a regional airline operating on 703, 704 and 705 air operator certificates. We serve 11 regions in Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario, moving 7,000 passengers per month on approximately 40 flights per day. We currently employ 200 aviation professionals.
We've been invited here today to discuss the labour shortage in the aviation sector. We're a regional carrier based in Montreal, and our employees are constantly solicited by mainline companies such as Air Canada, Jazz, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat. This is not new for us, as these companies require experienced personnel and usually come to companies like ours for that experience.
In the past years, we have experienced a 50% turnover in flight crews alone. Until recently, we usually had a nice stockpile of resumés of ambitious young women and men wanting to join our company. Since the pandemic, we've noticed a steady decrease in qualified professionals in our sector. We have problems recruiting specialized workers, such as flight dispatchers, aircraft maintenance engineers and ground service personnel, but our biggest challenge remains the pilot shortage.
There are numerous reports that exist—I’m sure you have all seen them—on current and future shortfalls of pilots in Canada. The data is not good, especially for smaller, regional carriers like ours. The pilot shortage is no surprise, nor is it a new issue. In 2019, we were already feeling the impact, but the pandemic alleviated the problem for us, temporarily anyway.
Today, we are in a perpetual recruiting mode for all levels of personnel, especially for qualified pilots. Unfortunately, we see very few applying. We have increased our salaries and conditions significantly. We don’t see better retention or attraction of these qualified workers because there just aren’t many out there.
When the new flight and duty regulations came into effect in 2020 for the 705 operators, the larger companies started to stockpile pilots, putting on additional strain. As for Pascan, we ended up requiring 30% more pilots in our 705 operations to do exactly what we were doing the previous year.
On December 12, the flight and duty regulations will come into effect for the 703 and 704 operators, once again impacting the number of pilots required. Unfortunately, we had to make the decision to cease our 703 operations earlier this year. In early 2023, we will also suspend our 704 operations, greatly impacting the regions we serve, as the required number of pilots will be too high and our operations will no longer be viable.
The effects on regional airlines will eventually make their way to the mainline carriers as well. New pilots coming on to the market will have fewer options to build hours and experience in the smaller 703 and 704 operations. Understand that I'm focusing a lot on the pilot shortage today, but without the pilots to fly my planes, I won't require anyone to dispatch them or any mechanics to fix them.
Where has everybody gone? As I stated earlier, this shortage isn't new; it has just been amplified. A lot of it is due to the pandemic. A lot of early retirement packages were given out to the pilots at Air Canada, WestJet and Air Transat, and some people just decided to start different careers due to the instability in the industry. The pandemic greatly impacted the training of new pilots for almost two years. The cost to become a pilot is astronomical, and as interest rates increase, this will only be a further deterrent.
There isn't much awareness out there either for young people that this is an incredible industry to work in. Regulation changes have also made a great impact on the pilot levels.
As we're already in the middle of this shortage, there isn't much that can be done in the short term to solve this issue. Unfortunately, it will quickly get worse as bigger airlines ramp up and pilots start to leave for other countries, like the U.S.A. under the EB-2 program, offering unconditional green cards for pilots and their families, huge salaries, and sign-on bonuses.
For us, regional aviation is at risk. We need help, and we need help quickly.
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Kaylie Tiessen. I work in the research department at Unifor studying the air transportation sector as well as many other sectors. This is one of my favourites.
Unifor represents more than 16,000 members working in the air transportation sector. We represent pilots, customer service representatives, ramp attendants, baggage handlers, flight attendants, airport authority workers, flight service specialists and air traffic controllers. All of these workplaces have experienced the effects of a shortage of workers in the last year.
These labour shortage conversations are nothing new. We've heard a couple of times today already that this is not something that's recent. These conversations have been ongoing. One thing we're all talking about in Unifor across the sector is higher-quality work. That's one of the many solutions needed. What's become clear to our members as we listen to these conversations is that government doesn't truly understand the root of this problem and our employers don't necessarily understand the root of the problem, or some of them just refuse to make the changes necessary to fix some of these issues.
In higher-wage jobs like air traffic control and with pilots, some of our employers have really manufactured a shortage of labour by failing to hire and train an appropriate number of workers after people have retired or by even preparing ahead of time. In lower-wage jobs, employers have manufactured a shortage by paying low wages and creating very chaotic work rules that leave workers with little ability to plan their lives outside of work or to make ends meet. They go and work somewhere that is maybe more stable.
In customer service roles, employers are able to hire people, and they're filling the roles, but turnover is really high because of inadequate training, low wages or precarious schedules. The job that could be very fulfilling, and used to be very fulfilling, turns out to be less fulfilling as workers are subject to violence and harassment by customers and are provided with little support from their employers. It shouldn't be a surprise that if an employer treats their workers unfairly, they will be hard pressed to retain employees or to hire them at all.
I have a couple of examples. Our pilot members at Sunwing could soon be working side by side with people hired on temporary contracts who are paid more than they are for the same work. Sunwing has applied to hire workers through the temporary foreign worker program, but we believe the company has not done enough to hire pilots who are available to work in Canada.
We've heard reports from our members at Sunwing that they had upwards of 800 applicants for a recent job posting for pilots, but they hired only about 150, or less than a quarter of those qualified applicants. Sunwing has manufactured its own labour shortage by not hiring and training pilots in advance of the busy travel season, and is now taking advantage of the current labour market situation in order to undermine our members' collective agreement and the quality of work available in Canada. Permanent jobs could be offered to pilots from abroad who would become a part of the Canadian workforce, benefiting from the collective agreement and the general protections offered most workers in Canada.
Another example is contract flipping. Contract flipping is a common practice in the sector that treats workers unfairly and leads to a shortage of people who are interested in doing that kind of work. Airport authorities, airlines such as WestJet and Air Canada, and virtually all international carriers that fly into Canada create incredibly precarious work by contracting out particular tasks, including baggage handling, wheelchair handling and customer service. Every few years those contracts are flipped and new suppliers take over. That's kind of common practice. The work is exactly the same, but the winning company does not have to hire the workers back or provide the benefits or other provisions they may have earned over time. The collective agreement does not follow the job either.
Unifor members faced this demeaning and really heart-wrenching situation at least three times this year when their employer lost a contract. They had to fight to be hired by the new company for less total compensation, fewer benefits and actually a loss of any work rules that they had been able to negotiate.
Furthermore, as I mentioned, our members are increasingly facing harassment from customers. They have insufficient training to conduct their jobs to the best of their ability. Employers are really abdicating this responsibility and then blaming workers for their lack of capacity.
Some of these issues need to be solved by employers, but government has an important role to play in increasing standards and supporting safety and security in the industry too.
Some concrete steps that government could take immediately to improve the labour situation at airports include instituting a minimum living wage at airports across the country; implementing full successor rights to ensure workers keep their jobs, pay and collective agreements when a contract is flipped; enhancing oversight of the temporary foreign worker program to ensure employers don't abuse the system and workers are treated fairly; granting migrant workers permanent residency status upon arrival to ensure equal rights and protections for all so that's not being taken advantage of; and helping to lead the development of a solution to the escalating problem of on-the-job harassment. Employers need to take responsibility for the frustration that their business models and technological change introduce into the system and take a stand to ensure that customers know harassment won't be tolerated.
Those are just a few of the solutions that are available that you can make right now.
I look forward to taking your questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to all the witnesses. It's been really awesome testimony.
I'll start out by saying that all of us around this table or virtually have known the story about the airlines over the last two and a half years. Most of those stories—although they're trying hard—aren't the most fun stories to say the least, so this is really, really an important study.
Mr. Chair through you, sir, I'll start with Mr. Morrison.
We heard you say that more people need to be trained. What specifically is needed by the government and what could the government have done differently? Also, what does the future look like to get us out of this mess, quite frankly?
Mr. Chair, first of all, I think the future is definitely looking better in the next few months and years than it has in the past several months and years.
You heard extensively about the impacts of COVID on our sector. As I mentioned in my opening statement, we were the first to be hit and the last to recover.
The fact that our staffing levels at our member airlines are back to what they were in 2019 I think is a positive development. Obviously, the fact that COVID restrictions have been removed as of October 1 is a positive development. The fact that we're seeing passenger volumes return to somewhat close to 2019 levels again is a positive development.
However, there are lessons that will need to be learned from the pandemic, no question. In particular, especially with the numbers that my colleague, Mr. Donald's group, put forth, the fact that we need to hire at least 58,000 new workers into the sector over the next six years is going to mean—and frankly, I think the testimony of Mr. Roberts in terms of some of the challenges his company is facing is very—
Thank you, Mr. Morrison. I'm sorry, but I have very limited time.
I have one more question for you, sir.
Through you, Mr. Chair, you spoke about using new technologies to speed up things. That is what I heard you say.
With all due respect, sir, I've heard from CATSA and from CBSA unions that computers cannot replace people and that indeed it doesn't really speed things up.
I'm curious. Are you hearing a different story than I am? All of the testimony we've heard, through more than this committee, says that it's not going to work. We know that ArriveCAN, quite frankly, really held people up, as opposed to getting them through quickly.
Can you comment on that?
Through you, Mr. Chair to Mr. Donald, very quickly, on temporary foreign workers, I have a very simple quick question. Is it standard across the globe?
If we were to bring in TFWs, temporary foreign workers, to help subsidize our workforce here in the aviation industry, is it standardized in that everybody would be safe on an airplane? Are the folks that are repairing our airplanes and doing all those types of jobs safe?
I'll conclude my line of questioning with Ms. Tiessen, Mr. Chair.
I have a private member's bill coming forward to the finance committee, Ms. Tiessen, on Wednesday. It's a travel tax deduction for skilled trades specifically. It allows them to write off their meals, lodging and hotels.
You represent Unifor in a vast variety of sectors across Canada. Would this be something that Unifor would support for their workers? They could travel upwards of 120 kilometres away from home and spend a few nights out of town to support the aviation industry.
Is that something that would be palatable for Unifor and/or helpful for our workforce?
I will answer you in English.
Part of the challenges, especially over the past summer, were in receiving health certifications for pilots from Transport Canada. There were significant delays, much longer delays than the average. What that meant essentially was that pilots were sitting around not able to work.
Another good example is any airline personnel who required access to sensitive areas of airports requiring a certification an RAIC. There were delays in getting those out as well. As a result, without those proper certifications, airline crews, including flight attendants, were not able to access airports and were therefore also not able to work. That was a contributing factor to some of the disruptions that we saw this summer. We hope that those delays won't be repeated in the future.
I'll answer for Ms. Dias, who had some technical difficulties today, so she couldn't join the meeting.
In terms of attracting experienced workers, we're talking about higher-quality work here. If someone left and went to a different job, they did so because the job was more attractive. That would mean higher pay, less chaotic scheduling, being able to plan their life and not just be following the whims of some scheduling technology, as one piece of the puzzle. Then other pieces of the puzzle would be to attract people to come back from retirement, and those sorts of things. I would love to have a conversation about that.
We could talk about that here in the office and get back to you. I'm sure that Ms. Dias has thought of that, but unfortunately she just couldn't be here.
Thank you very much, Ms. Tiessen.
I brought it up because it seems to me that we often talk about the time it takes to train staff and the fact that people who come in, once they've been trained, don't necessarily have the work experience, whereas experienced workers already have all that. It might be more practical to try and keep them longer, because it saves a lot of work not having to train new people.
I'll speak to the representative from Pascan Aviation Inc.
Mr. Roberts, we have had the opportunity to meet elsewhere than here, sometimes with your partner, Mr. Gagnon, to discuss the pilot shortage you are facing.
From your side, do you see any particular measures that could be put in place by the government, for example, to help you make sure that you have enough pilots, and that people see this as an interesting profession?
When I was younger, I was an aviation cadet, and at that time, when I spoke to my colleagues, a lot of them said they were interested in aviation, but that becoming a pilot was expensive, and one of the only ways to get access to it at a reasonable cost was to do it through the cadet route.
Honestly, when I was young, I was really attracted to aviation. It's much less common for young people to be interested in it today. I have three young children, and I never heard them or their friends talk about aviation. Back then, working in aviation was almost a trend. Now there is not much advertising in schools. There are obviously not many programs that exist, except for the aviation mechanic program at CEGEP. There are flight schools, but they only train about 30 pilots a year, when 300 are needed.
Becoming a pilot costs, today, about $90,000. It's certainly not easy for young people to take out a loan from the bank or have their parents sign a mortgage for this training, especially in an industry that in recent years has been very volatile.
There are probably education activities that should be organized in schools, to talk a bit more about our industry. It's a really interesting and exciting industry, but it doesn't appeal to young people today like it did in the 1990s, for example.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all of our witnesses.
I'd like to ask Ms Tiessen, from Unifor, a couple of questions.
What you said, Ms. Tiessen, around contract flipping is particularly concerning. I was trying to imagine what it would be like to be an employee in one of those roles and to have a set of benefits as part of a collective agreement, and then to have the contract flip and lose the stability and the expectation of those every couple of years.
First, I'm wondering if this problem has become worse in recent years. Second, I'm wondering if you can point to a specific legislative or regulatory change that would help address this issue for employees in the air sector.
We've seen in a number of different locations in the U.S. that minimum standards for wages at airports can be increased quite dramatically, and that what happens is that the quality of work is better, airports become more efficient, there's less turnover and the customer service is of higher quality. There are all of these different pieces. That's been the case in Seattle. It's been the case at Newark, LaGuardia, JFK and LAX. LAX is actually a living wage employer.
In Toronto, the living wage is $22 an hour. It's slightly different across the country, but there's a calculation that is done by many different communities across the country. That's something that could be implemented to quickly increase the quality of work at an airport.
Thank you to all witnesses for your testimony here today.
My first question is for Mr. McKenna.
I forget the reference, but I read somewhere that you were quoted in November 2021 as saying that you're ready to go, and the government is the one that’s holding you back. It's a year later, so I'd like to ask you, is this still true? What's better, if anything? How do we best fix what needs to be fixed in terms of holding back the sector?
As I alluded to in my remarks, we need to improve the process for bringing in foreign-trained workers, foreign AMEs. As I said, Canadian companies want to hire Canadians, but when we don't have them, we need experienced workers and better access to them.
Adding those two NOC codes I referred to will help. As well, we need what I was referring to about competency. Transport Canada follows a mechanical bureaucratic process comparing what an individual studied in India, Germany or any other country against what they set out in chapter 566, which Canadian colleges must teach.
That no longer makes sense. It never did, but it's even worse now. Transport Canada needs to move to a competency-based assessment for foreign AMEs coming to Canada. This individual can work on an Air Canada plane in Frankfurt, but can't work on it here. It doesn't make sense.
I could go on, but I will stop there.
That leaves a substantial number of people, 600-plus, who are still out there. I'm assuming they went to work for other airlines somewhere. I was amazed at that number when you said that, after hearing so many people talk about the labour shortages and the lack of pilots to fly planes.
Anyway, thank you for that. I appreciate the information.
I want to ask Mr. Donald a question.
Your organization states that “education/training programs have not kept pace with the rapidly evolving technological needs of the industry.” Moreover, “sector-wide, there is a limited capacity to educate and train interested students.”
Can you elaborate on these educational training shortcomings? Why haven't the aviation and aerospace industries amended the issues? What is preventing the industry from doing so?
I'm not sure what report you're reading from, but it is correct that colleges in Canada are required to teach what is mandated by Transport Canada. Transport says how many hours. It has to be in the classroom. It cannot be remote. There was an extension for the pandemic, but that has not been extended.
That curriculum is out of date. It still insists that students have a knowledge of cloth wings and wood structures.
We've spoken to Transport Canada. They have said they will update it, but they have not. We've been saying this for three, four and five years. It hasn't been updated since 1999.
They're requiring that students learn things that are no longer in airplanes. It defies logic. That's something an AME from Germany can be refused on, that they didn't study cloth wings and wood structures. They can't get their licence here. TC tells them to take a course on cloth wings and wood structures. Nobody will teach that.
I'll stop there.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I have a question for Mr. Girard from Nav Canada.
Mr. Girard, during the pandemic, the committee heard both from Nav Canada and from the union representing Nav Canada workers about the risk of losing skilled employees during the pandemic and the impact that would have on the overall operation, particularly in skilled fields where years of experience and training are required to perform really specialized roles.
At this juncture, in looking back, could you tell us a little bit about what actually transpired? Were these fears realized? I know that at the time Nav Canada was looking to the federal government for fairly significant financial support. I don't believe that was received in the amounts that were requested. Did we actually see this accelerated loss of experienced personnel during the pandemic?
What I can share with you is that we did see people leaving. Some of it was through programs.
You have to understand that 66% of our cost is people. We had to take very hard decisions at Nav Canada to reduce our workforce by 12.7%. That didn't affect anybody directly in operations, other than we offered some incentives to retire early. Those people were going to retire anyway in a short time frame, or there were chances of their retiring in a short time frame. These people left. Other people who left through normal attrition, retirement, or things like that, we didn't necessarily replace at the time.
It is important to note that we have rehired lots of these people. We have called back and rehired 50 people, actually.
During that time period, what really didn't help us was that because of COVID-19, we were unable to train for a number of different reasons. The first one was for the safety of our employees and ensuring the service delivery. As you can imagine, a trainee and an OJI work very closely with one another. We didn't want to chance the spread of COVID-19. In addition to that, we had such a reduction in traffic that it was very hard to justify how we could qualify people with the low level of traffic. It was questioned both by the union as well as by Transport Canada.
Unfortunately, we had to let those trainees go. We didn't make any headway during that time.
We have since rehired most of these trainees. In the last year we qualified about 100 of them. As I said before, we still have about 250 trainees in the system.
Yes, people left, and then we—
Thank you for the question.
I can't comment on the best platform or who could best deliver the platforms. What I can say is that technology, as was discussed previously, can play a role in improving and bringing efficiencies to the travel system. Even with something like ArriveCAN, which has been hotly debated over the past several months, the fact that its purpose has now been transitioned to be a voluntary tool for customs purposes has proven to be, I think, more beneficial than it had been in its previous iteration.
I can't speak to the providers, but I can speak to the technology. It can absolutely serve a purpose in terms of improving efficiency.
I really appreciate that.
We have, as you know, a pilot shortage. It's not a surprise. It's been there for a long time. It's not going away. We're able to train new pilots. The problem we're having is getting those pilots qualified with enough hours to fly the main line. We're unable to replace the number of qualified pilots we're losing to the bigger carriers. Air Canada or WestJet can come in and hire our pilots. Our pilots will give us two weeks' notice. It takes me three months to train and replace that pilot.
The problem we're seeing is that the pool of those pilots to replace the experienced pilots is drying up. The barrel is almost empty. I don't know how we're going to find a way to replace those pilots going forward. If we're going to be missing 58,000 professionals in the next five years, then I don't know where they're going to come from. I really don't have any solution.
My next question is for Ms. Tiessen.
You spoke about wages and compensation and employers perhaps not offering the work experience they should be offering to their employees. Perhaps this might help Mr. Roberts as well. Maybe together, with the unions and the employers.... There are some work things that need to be done together.
Ms. Tiessen, besides enhanced wages and compensation, what other things can be done to attract and retain workers? What kind of collaborative work has your union membership done with employers to address the labour shortages? Are you working collaboratively? Are you exchanging ideas?
That's a great question.
We are working collaboratively wherever we can. Ms. Dias would have very specific examples of exactly where we're working collaboratively with employers to fill positions.
A few that come to mind, for me, would be some of the baggage handlers and other groups we've worked with to make sure we're raising wages for workers. I'm specifically thinking about raising wages, working conditions and fair scheduling practices. Also, when new technology is being implemented, how do we make sure workers are consulted ahead of time? Also, when they are working with new technology, are employers still treating workers like humans, like people who are valuable to the business? We have agreements across all sectors, not just in aviation, where we specifically say that, when new technology is introduced, the union has to be consulted and there is a committee of workers who work with employers to implement that kind of technology.
If there are other examples, we'll get them together for you and send them off.
Mr. Chair, through you, a number of our witnesses here this afternoon touched on the issue of immigration. On April 4, 2022, the announced new measures to address Canada's labour shortages. These measures included a temporary policy that would allow recent international graduates with expiring temporary status to stay in Canada longer.
I'm wondering if our witnesses feel the extension of a temporary policy allowing visitors to the country to apply for a work permit would be a solution. If not, what kind of changes to our immigration policies do they see or recommend, in order to help fill that gap?
Having people come in but not letting them work in the sector is obviously not going to provide much of a solution.
I was interested to note, in comparing that testimony of yours.... Ninety-nine per cent of foreign-trained AMEs are rejected. Mr. Roberts referenced an EB-2 program in the United States that takes anyone and everyone who has been trained up to a certain level with no questions asked, and will bring them into the U.S. to work as pilots.
What can be done? Obviously, Transport Canada is the barrier in getting AMEs recognized. What needs to change there? How can we work on equivalencies among similarly skilled nations, if we can call it that? We do it in other sectors.
Have you heard whether Transport Canada even sees this as a problem? Are they working with the U.S. FAA? The U.K. and EU were referenced. What are we doing to ensure that we recognize equivalencies and that this problem of essentially banning everyone—99%—from working gets solved?
That question is for Mr. Donald.
Is there a solution there? Is Transport Canada working to improve this, or, from your perspective, are they satisfied with that 1% acceptance rate?
You've presented very compelling testimony in that regard.
I want to go quickly to Mr. McKenna.
This seems to be a theme we're hearing. We certainly saw it with the passport fiasco. We don't have enough people working back at their offices.
You said that it's taking three to four times longer to get things done than it used to, and you mentioned that is idling equipment. Can you give some examples? I know you listed a number of things for which it is now taking three or four times longer. It used to be 90 days. Three or four times longer than 90 days is now a year.
How is that impacting people staying in the industry? We're talking about a labour shortage. If it takes a year to get recertified or a year to get back to work, what impact does that have on the workforce?
As was mentioned with the visa applications, it's good to change a policy to allow immigration. Then again, the administration of that policy is something altogether different. You have a huge backlog of people waiting for processing, and it's not happening. Policy is great, but you have to be able to do it.
We have members who have purchased planes and can't fly them because they have not been approved or included in the operating certificate, so they're sitting on the ground until that's done, and that could be months. This is very valuable equipment that's just sitting there.
There are numerous examples that carriers can give you to that effect, so it's a question of delays. It's not a question of policy in many cases, except for, as Rob Donald referred to, certain regulations that really need to be updated. For those that have been, there are no boots in place to carry it out.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank the witnesses for coming out today and giving us their testimony. As many if not all of you know, this study has been very in depth, and we've heard a great deal of testimony from many of the witnesses that we expect would be contained within the final report and would therefore be responded to by the and the department.
Where I want to go with this is to give each one of you an opportunity to give some testimony that would find its way into the final report, and again, be responded to by the .
I'm going to start with Mr. Roberts.
I want to give you the stage to provide us with anything that you haven't yet, and again, that you would like to see as part of the final report.
One is that, when it comes to training, we need to make sure we're not just relying on experienced workers. An experienced worker doesn't become experienced without training and experience. We need to make sure we're moving with the whole pipeline. That includes making sure there are enough seats in schools so that people can get the training that they need.
Another one is thinking about the living wage piece. Airports are non-profit institutions that are mandated to contribute to community economic development. Paying people fairly would be one piece of the puzzle to building the community around the airport.
The final one—and with regard to the question posed to me earlier—is to always work collaboratively. We work collaboratively with our employers in all sorts of different situations. We'd be happy to make sure we're implementing the right solutions to retain workers who are hired and to attract the workers who need to be hired.
Very quickly, there are three items that come to mind.
The first one is that we need to modernize how we train and license people, especially our air traffic controller group. We need to move to competency-based licensing as opposed to geographic licensing. It's something that we need to work on with Transport Canada.
The second one has been identified by others and affects us as well. Any help that we can get to bring in skilled foreign hires that require labour-intensive labour market impact assessment right now would be very beneficial for us. We've benefited from hiring somebody from Ukraine, actually, with the LMIA that the government gave us. Anytime we can bring in somebody with experience as opposed to somebody right off the street would help.
Finally, and a little more broadly, we'd be interested in discussing with the government it making an investment in the planned modernization of our training programs and supportive technology for them.
I also have three things.
The first is to make sure that regulations reflect the reality that we live in, which is not the case right now.
Second, in the last 10 years, demand for our services has grown by about 5% a year, but Transport Canada's safety budget has been consistently cut. Actually, over the 1990s, it was cut by 25%, making it basically impossible for them to carry out their mandate, so the efficiency has dropped to historic lows.
Finally, we've been proposing for years that the government offer a loan guarantee program to help people access funds to train commercially. This is, basically, very low risk for the government, and a few hundred thousand dollars would help train many, many, pilots.
I don't want to be a wet blanket, but I think people don't realize how critical the situation is. It was urgent before the pandemic and it has become critical.
In North America alone, there will be a shortage of 65,000 pilots over the next 10 years. That means hiring and training 20 pilots a day. It's going to be a very difficult situation and something needs to be done.
For small carriers like Pascan Aviation, the situation is exacerbated because the large carriers are draining our pool of pilots. This is not just a North American phenomenon; it's a global phenomenon. We are competing with the entire planet.
My colleague Mr. Roberts talked about the possibility of changing the regulations that deal with the flight duty period. I think there are other things that can be done, particularly in relation to the retirement age in the major airlines.
We have heard Mr. Roberts and Mr. Gagnon talk about their concern that the pilot shortage will worsen in transportation, particularly with the regional carriers, which are on the front lines. There is a risk that the major airlines will dip into these carriers to get better qualified pilots.
It was also explained to us that a pilot with a solo pilot's licence, who comes out of a flight school, is still not qualified to fly a commercial aircraft. For a pilot who has just obtained his licence, there is a long way to go between flying a Cessna and a passenger aircraft.
Could solutions be put in place to help pilots move from this stage to the next stages?
Mr. McKenna, I didn't hear you on that question. I don't know if you have any thoughts on that. If not, it would be interesting to hear from Mr. Roberts or Mr. Gagnon in that regard.
We've been advocating to end the worst effects of contract flipping at airports for a really long time. We made three recommendations. Two of the three recommendations have been implemented. They are slightly watered down, but they were implemented.
It's the third one that still needs to change. Now, a worker who is rehired will be rehired at the wage they had before with the previous contracting company. However, they're not guaranteed to keep their job, and they don't keep all of the other protections or benefits that were negotiated or earned, including vacation pay, potentially scheduling and those sorts of things.
We asked for three changes to be made. Two of them have been made, and the one to implement full successor rights is the one that's left. That's the confusion there.
I thought we had some interesting recommendations during Mr. Badawey's intervention, but I did find it interesting to have one of the witnesses—I think it was Mr. Gagnon—say that we're competing against everyone else in the world. Certainly what we're hearing today is that the government isn't keeping up, and that we are actually letting down the industry by failing to recognize foreign credentials, failing to recognize people who want to come here to work in our industry. Instead, the government bureaucracy is set up and arrayed against those people.
I want to go to you, Mr. Morrison.
You mentioned in your testimony that there are obstacles to the recognition of foreign credentials and that the government needs to do more to promote airlines both domestically and around the world. We've heard about the Transport Canada obstacles. In your experience, are there other obstacles or other interests, perhaps, that are against recognizing those foreign credentials?
First, just to reiterate, it's absolutely true that we are competing not just with other sectors within Canada but that this is an international competition. Countries around the world are all competing for the same pools of skilled labour.
I think Mr. Donald identified a couple of bizarre examples in some cases, yet they exist, of those bureaucratic requirements that Transport Canada has in place regarding training. It's not just that. As you know, I've talked a bit about the delays in pilot certification for health purposes and so forth.
I was recently with an airline employee who was giving me a tour of an airport. He couldn't actually get through parts of the airport because his employee certification had expired the day prior, and it was only good for one year. Quick examples like that show.... Why did he have to recertify every year for something that in other jurisdictions is good for five or 10 years?
It's little examples like that which add up and really put employees in a disadvantaged position.
We heard in previous testimony from Andrew Gibbons from WestJet, for example, about the instability in the industry caused by an “accordion” approach—I think he used that term—to regulation and what impact that has had. We've heard again and again how employees in the sector have left not just because of the mandates, but because of the insecurity of the industry as a whole.
I noted that when the COVID measures were lifted it was made very clear by the and by the that this was simply a suspension, and that at any time the government could slam back into place those regulations that had punished the industry, depending on what they deem to be necessary at the moment.
Mr. Morrison, what impact does that have on your members and on the employees who have experienced a loss of income, a loss of security, over the last couple of years, whether they were subsidized by the government or not? What impact does that have by not having that security, in that these regulations, these restrictions, could be slammed back into place at any time without warning from the government?
It's very difficult for everyone in the sector not having that certainty in terms of where we're going.
I'll give a very brief example. In the past several months prior to the pandemic restrictions being lifted, we saw a significant increase in the amount of harassment and abuse being faced by airline employees, particularly flight attendants, who were in the position of having to enforce the mask mandate on flights. It's one of the reasons we called so strenuously for that particular measure to be lifted. We wanted to protect the well-being of our workers in not having to enforce that particular measure.
If we had something like that reimposed, not only would we again be facing a significant increase in harassment and abuse of our employees, but it would destabilize a lot of the workforce, who frankly would not be certain whether they would have a job in six months or eight months down the road.
We very much hope that reimposition is not on the table for the travel and tourism sector, especially when we have evidence that, in fact, it did very little to nothing to curb community spread of COVID.
Wow, that's a loaded question. The world is a big place, sir.
In some jurisdictions, yes, and I would say probably in most with the people we're working with.... However, there are other countries that I would not have this data for.
I can speak from a knowledgeable place for Nav Canada. For air traffic controllers specifically, we're looking to hire about 150 people. I should say that we're short about 150 people, and there is attrition over the years that is going to add to that.
Air traffic controllers are obviously very important at Nav Canada. However, we have our flight service specialists who do about the same work, and we're short by about 50 of them.
We can have all of the air traffic controllers and flight specialists in the world, but if we don't have technologists to repair and install and maintain our equipment, then these people cannot do their jobs. In the next year, we're looking to hire about 187 of these people.
It depends. I can talk to you about success rates historically and it depends where you qualify. There are a number of different air traffic controllers, and they are not all created equal.
In the ACCs, we used to have a checkout rate, as we call it, of around 45%. In the towers, it was around 55%. I was talking about the flight service specialists. There is about a 75% success rate there, which was pre-COVID, in 2019.
As I said, we recalled a lot of the trainees, and we have a bit better success rate than we had pre-2019. We've done a bunch of different things, and making training a priority was one of them.
Obviously, we have our unionized employees as well, who are involved in the training and doing an excellent job in training and qualifying these people. There are a lot of different activities.
To answer your second question, I was talking about different areas where we can work with the government, with Transport Canada, to modernize our training and qualification model.
Right now, if you're a controller and you're qualified in the Vancouver tower and you want to train in Dorval tower, there is a lengthy training program. We retrain you. Even if you're a qualified air traffic controller, we retrain you on how to be a controller in Dorval. That's as opposed to recognizing, as part of the training program, that you're already qualified and have at least the basic qualifications to be a controller that you gained from another facility.
We have to modernize that training and qualification to be based more on competency, as opposed to geographic location. That is work that we need to carry on with Transport Canada. Any help that the committee can bring there would be most appreciated.
There are a lot of different things we're doing. For example, one thing that we've done recently is we've established a group of senior managers and, on a monthly basis, we talk about every single trainee who has any difficulty.
One area where I think we've improved is that, at times, we would wait until there was a recommendation to cease training in order to take action. Now we get involved a lot earlier, and then we invest in helping the person in training as well as the person conducting the training. The team responsible for the training gets into coaching coaches and extra simulation runs into whatever the person needs earlier in the process.
I don't want to say that we've found the solution for everything, but, as I said, since we've started training again, we have seen a better success rate overall than we saw pre-COVID 2019.